I Hate Hamlet - Review

Entertaining comedy in English!

I Hate Hamlet
By Paul Rudnick

Directed by Zoë Chandler

Featuring Paul Savage, Pauliina Munukka, Christian Jull, Anna Maria Rawlings, Daniel McMullen, Stina Halmetoja

Finn-Brit Players
Tanssiteatteri Hurjaruuth
The Cable Factory, Helsinki
18-23 November 2013

Helsinki offers good theatre in English! The group behind it is called The Finn-Brit Players. They are indeed amateurs, but what they offer is far from unprofessional. I had good reason to say this about their production of The Woman in Black earlier this year, and now I can say it again. I warmly recommend anyone interested in experiencing theatre in English to go along to this performance of the comedy I Hate Hamlet, directed by Zoë Chandler. So all you school groups, educational organisations, language circles and anglophiles in general, get thee to the Cable Factory. But hurry!

I Hate Hamlet is a fast-paced comedy written by Paul Rudnick. Andrew Rally (Daniel McMullen) is at a crossroads in life. Should he take a well-paid job in TV, or play Hamlet in Central Park? Where does his heart really lie? Where, after all, is everybody's personal Hamlet in these days of quick fixes and instant gratification where slow deliberation is not appreciated? The director discusses this dilemma wisely and with insight in her programme note.

What turns Rally's dilemma into a real problem is that he hates Hamlet, which he does not understand. Then there is his girlfriend Deirdre (Stina Halmetoja): if he does not take the role she will remain a fair maid keeping him at arm's length. What should he do? To be or not to be Hamlet, that is the question.

Rally finds himself in a flat that once belonged to the legendary actor and interpreter of Shakespeare John Barrymore (Christian Jull). Barrymore manifests himself and endeavours to put Rally on the right theatrical track. A further complication is that Barrymore cannot go back to the eternal rest from which he was awoken unless Rally plays Hamlet. What can he do?

The set portrays, with discrete means and some success, a charming flat. Bonus points for the lighting and sound effects! Two observations: the acting is done in American English – with varying success; and then there is some waltzing to the romantic tune of Charmaine. It is Barrymore and his old (sorry!) flame Lillian Troy (Anna Maria Rawlings) who take to the floor. One thing is clear: the waltz is a nice dance but not an easy one.

The main substance of the performance is in the interplay between Barrymore and Rally. Here is the play's solid and philosophical core. So the serious depth is contrasted with superficial and at times literally good fencing (they must really have had fun in the rehearsals). The whole is very entertaining and I will say, once more, that the interaction between Jull and McMullen is of an extremely high standard, just as it was in The Woman in Black. Amateurs??

Original review Ulf Persson for Recensenterna.
Translation from Swedish by Joan and Henrik Nordlund